Saturday, May 17, 2008

The Contest

Ségolène Royal has officially announced her candidacy; Bertrand Delanoë "sort son jeu," reads the headline in Le Monde. So both heavyweights are in the ring. Behind Delanoë is Jospin: the Jospiniste courant has more or less entirely swung into line behind the mayor of Paris. The animosity between Jospin and Royal is palpable and apparently of long standing. The Strauss-Kahnian Cambadélis and Jack Lang have both voiced their displeasure at the way the race for the party leadership is developing. For the former, the party has become une pétaudière (bedlam):

Quelles pétaudières sont les démocraties! On ne sait à qui s'en prendre (Sainte-Beuve, Corresp., t.3, 1839, p.93).

En mille factions nous sommes morcelés,
Et tout ce gâchis bout dans la même chaudière,
Chaos indébrouillable, étrange pétaudière
(Pommier, Colères, 1844, p.108).

With the eyes of a hungry buzzard, Laurent Fabius watches on the sidelines, awaiting his chance. The Moscovici-Montebourg tandem works feverishly around the edges. Manuel Valls has begun to raise his profile a bit as he attempts to push the party a little farther toward the right. Julien Dray offers yet another option. If Jospin's influence remains palpable, Michel Rocard's appears to have evaporated, and there is less talk these days of a Strauss-Kahn return from Washington (but he seems to be worried that he may be about to lose his opportunity and is trying to repair his lines of communication). And so the Socialist Party continues to wallow in self-obsession, failing to capitalize on the opportunity offered by bickering in the ranks of the right. The party congress does not take place until November, and over the summer France assumes the EU presidency, which will probably enable Sarkozy to regain his monopoly of the headlines for a while anyway. The first half of 2008 was an opportunity for the PS to assert itself in the wake of its victory in the municipals. It has failed to do so, and what the party stands for remains as murky in the minds of voters as it was a year ago. A chance has been squandered.